By Barry Adams
Wisconsin State Journal
BELLEVILLE, Wis. (AP) — The roof has been repaired but it’s still uncertain what business will ultimately reside in the historic train depot in Belleville.
The village purchased the depot last year and spent several months repairing the deteriorating structure. The work primarily focused on preventing water from getting into the building, which was constructed in 1888 by the Chicago, Madison & Northern Railroad, but village officials are now about to begin marketing the property.
The Village Board voted last month to list the property with a real estate agent in an attempt to find an entrepreneur to lease the depot, located along what is now the Badger State Trail. Once a tenant is found, the village will then remodel the interior to meet the needs of the new business, whether it be a restaurant, brewpub or retailer, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.
“We’ll work with them to get it finished out,” said Brian Wilson, Belleville’s administrator. “If we can find someone, we could get the work done in six to eight months.”
Ideas for the depot include a coffee roasting company and coffee shop or a brewpub, both of which would be regional draws and cater to those who use the bike trail, according to a group of University of Wisconsin-Madison doctoral students who studied the property and came up with potential viable uses.
The village purchased the depot in November 2018 for $250,000 from Landmark Service Corp. and a month later began a $160,000 project to tear off the roof and replace joists and shingles as part of the first phase of restoring the building. The village expects to spend an additional $600,000 to make the depot ready for a tenant, once one is found.
Passenger rail service to the village ended more than 50 years ago, and freight service was halted in the 1980s. The depot and surrounding property was ultimately purchased by Union Cooperative and later was owned by Landmark. The depot had been used by the cooperatives for offices and fertilizer and seed corn storage but the building has been vacant in recent years while other buildings on the property had been removed by Landmark.
The depot was added in 2016 to the state and national registers of historic places while the 40-mile Badger State Trail was created in 2009 and runs from Madison to the Illinois border, where it connects to the Jane Addams Trail in Illinois.
One of the highlights of the trail is located 2.7 miles south of Belleville. The 1,260-foot-long Stewart Tunnel was completed in 1887 after a year of digging and is now a prime destination for bikers, many of whom depart from Belleville and could be a key customer base to any new business in the depot.